Notebook: Easley having 'productive' year

Notebook: Easley having 'productive' year

After tearing his ACL in the final regular season game against Florida State last year, no one was really sure what to expect out of defensive lineman Dominique Easley this year. He switched outside to defensive end, but there were questions about his burst after the knee injury. The junior is starting to play more consistently and be a bigger factor as the season continues.

Easley has been held out of two games—Kentucky and Vanderbilt — this season — because of swelling and soreness in the knee. The injury has also forced the Florida coaches to be smart in handling him on the practice field. They don't want to waste too many reps during the week that could limit some of his explosiveness on Saturdays.

It's starting to be shown more. Dominique Easley had four tackles and half a tackle for a loss on Saturday against Missouri, but he's starting to make a habit of getting into the offensive backfield.

"He's had a very productive year," Muschamp said. "Last year was his first year starting in college, really. I don't know how much I played the year before, but it wasn't much. These guys go through a lot in this conference, especially on the line of scrimmage.

"To walk in the first year, regardless of your billing come out of high school, when you have to line up and play in the SEC, you're going to have your growing pains. You're going to have your days when your hat is handed to you, but he played extremely well last year in my opinion."

This year, the improvement has been obvious. Even while Easley is building the strength in his knee back to where it was before the surgery and trying to get back to the burst that he originally had, he's showing signs of a dominant player in recent weeks.

Easley has 2.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries on the season. It's not the big numbers that have been expected, but the recent production has come as the strength in the knee continues to improve.

His off the field mindset is also playing a role in the change. He's in the film room more than the previous two seasons and has become a student of the defensive scheme this year.

"He's made the necessary improvement to help his game this year, studying the game more off the field," Muschamp said. "Understanding the importance of watching film and understanding your opponent. I think he's having a fantastic year, I really do."

The NFL questions have started to come up with Easley's name. Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam are the names that will draw the most NFL interest from the Florida defense, but there are other players could elect to leave early and throw their name into the NFL Draft.

Muschamp is trying to downplay it with the players and will evaluate it with the defensive players after the season.

"We'll handle that when the year's over," Muschamp said. "He needs to keep playing well."

LACK OF PLAYMAKERS ON OFFENSE: The theme with the Florida offense has been the same since Riley Cooper, Aaron Hernandez and David Nelson left Gainesville after the 2009 season — the offensive talent at Florida just isn't where it needs to be.

It was the case when Urban Meyer left and Will Muschamp took the job at Florida.

"You've got to continue to recruit well," Muschamp said. "It starts there. And then develop your players on campus. As long as I'm seeing improvement with each player from a football standpoint mentality, physicality, strength-- that's what I really look at: week-to-week improvement and a guy making steps forward.

"I look at every situation on an individual player basis. Is this guy improving? If we're recruiting the right guys, then we ought to be where we want to be in a pretty short period of time. We've got to continue to recruit good players."

The talent and development are only effective when there is talent to be molded. So far this season, the Gators only have two freshmen — offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and running back Matt Jones — that have made much of an impact at all.

Despite the lack of explosive offensive talent on the roster in any class, Muschamp pointed to the team's record.

"It is what it is," Muschamp said. "We're where we are. We're 8-1, alright? It's easy to go pick at that and that's what everybody's decided to do at this point. We're not scoring 60 points a game, so obviously we're all upset. I want to score 60, too, but I want to win first of all. That's really what's important and that's what we're trying to do."

BRISSETT UPBEAT: When Jeff Driskel won the quarterback job, all eyes turned to backup Jacoby Brissett. He has only played against Kentucky and South Carolina this season, so he won't be able to take a redshirt.

Despite the disappointment of being the backup, Muschamp hasn't seen it change Brissett's mindset around the team.

"As good as you could handle it," Muschamp said when asked about Brissett dealing with being the backup. "He's approached it knowing he's a snap away of walking on the field and having to win for us. We've been nothing but more than pleased with how he's handled things."

There have been rumors about Brissett transferring in the offseason, but when asked about Brissett's future, Muschamp didn't back down.

"He'll be a Florida Gator," he said.

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